With two weekends and three point-to-point meetings left to run this season, it is fair to say we have landed over the last and the finish line is now in sight. Many of the championships are already decided (lady novice riders’ and seven horses or fewer trainers’ titles being the exceptions) but that will not stop the final push.
The month of May saw a later than usual spring transition from soft/heavy ground to good-to-firm/firm ground. As is often the case, this happened very quickly and, for horses craving genuinely good ground, the window of opportunity this season has been minimal. In the past few weekends the taps have been turned on and the water bowsers out in force in efforts to rediscover safe jumping ground, although not all courses have this luxury.
Personally, I am not a big fan of racing on firm ground. While I accept that some horses prefer to hear their hooves rattle and some need it for other reasons (because they have breathing issues otherwise exposed on softer surfaces, for example), in my experience most horses are more comfortable with some cut.
When watering is introduced, the risk of creating patchy or inconsistent ground is high. I have turned up at many a meeting over the years where my mounts have not left the horsebox for just those reasons.
I found it really interesting, therefore, when on a rare day off I attended Rockingham Horse Trials. Held not long after Badminton, it had many of the country’s leading riders on show and seemed a popular venue for educating up-and-coming youngsters.
I was amazed, therefore, when walking the cross-country course to find it was not just firm — in racing terms it probably would have been described as “hard”. Despite this, most riders seemed unfazed and were not shy in asking their horses to gallop on it.
Ref Horse & Hound; 7 June 2018